Have an Office Christmas Party But Celebrate Other Religions Too

— December 15, 2017

As an employer, it’s hard to get things right at Christmastime. Employers preparing for the season might ask themselves: “Will a Christmas party be a welcome celebration that brings our team closer together or will it open the company up to drunken scenes, sexual misconduct, or offend those who don’t celebrate?”


Employers who are on the fence might be interested to know that recent research from Kansas State University provided evidence in favor of having a Christmas party. And in fact, concludes that being more open about religion and religious celebrations in the workplace makes employees happier.


Sooyeol Kim, a doctoral student in psychological sciences at KSU, was involved in a collaborative study that found that employees who openly discuss their religion at work are more satisfied and perform better than those who hide their religion.


“For many people, religion is the core of their lives,” Kim said. “Being able to express important aspects of one’s life can influence work-related issues, such as job satisfaction, work performance or engagement. It can be beneficial for organizations to have a climate that is welcoming to every religion and culture.”


That means that, in addition to having a Christmas party, it would be a good idea to learn about other religions your employees follow and make a plan for how to honor each. For instance, Muslim employees might appreciate sensitivity to their fasting schedule during Ramadan, or Hindu employees may enjoy decorating their workspace for Diwali.


“Disclosing your religion can be beneficial for employees and individual well-being,” Kim said. “When you try to hide your identity, you have to pretend or you have to lie to others, which can be stressful and negatively impact how you build relationships with co-workers.”


Some popular holidays employers may want to take into consideration are:


1. Ramadan


Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is based on lunar cycles and the ninth month begins when the new moon is sited. Therefore, with respect to the Gregorian calendar (which is considered standard in most places), the date of Ramadan changes, usually getting 10 days earlier every year.


During Ramadan, practicing Muslims will often fast for 17 hours a day and eat at sunset. Employers who want to show sensitivity can allow Muslims who are still on shift to take a break at sunset to eat and pray.


At the end of Ramadan, Muslims partake in a celebration called Eid ul Fitr which translates to Festival of Fast-breaking. Be prepared for those celebrating to ask for one to five days off.


2. Hanukkah


Hanukkah, a Jewish celebration, consists of eight nights starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December.


During Hanukkah, Jews will light nine candles on a menorah (a unique candelabrum), progressively lighting one candle each night. To show support for those celebrating Hanukkah, employers may avoid scheduling Jews to work evenings during the celebration so they may be home with their families to observe the menorah lighting and eat oil-based foods associated with the holiday.


3. Diwali


Diwali falls on the 15th day of Kartik in the Hindu calendar which is based on lunar cycles. In the Gregorian calendar, the celebration changes yearly to occur in either October or November.


Diwali is a five day festival of lights celebrated by Hindus that features colorful decorations and motifs. On the third day, the key rituals take place in the evening. On the fourth day, Hindus who celebrate Diwali may go to the temples during the day.


A way to be considerate to those celebrating Diwali is to allow them to take the third and fourth day off of work. This allows them to prepare for the festivities on the third night and to have time to get to the temples on the fourth day.


The most successful workplaces are those who encourage their employees to be themselves and show respect for who they are and their religion. So throw a Christmas party this year, but make a point to honor employees of other religions and support their celebrations throughout the year.

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Author: Stephanie McGuinn


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